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I am wife to Stewart, mama of five, homeschooler, messy cook, and avid fermenter. This is where I tell our story... of building a sustainable off-grid homestead in a Christian agrarian community... of raising this growing family of ours... of the beauty and the hard and the joy in all of it.
936 articles written by Shannon


It is a funny kind of irony that moving to the land and leaving the grid resulted in a break from some of our better eating habits. There were some needed compromises and some not-so-needed and I (and my many excuses and justifications) take full responsibility for this as the kitchen-dweller of the family. We were living in a camper; we were living in a wooden tent; I had a corner for a kitchen; we had no refrigeration; we were both working; I worked in the garden all morning…

Blah, blah, blah.

The truth is I shifted around priorities when things got tough and made some necessary, and some plain-old-wrong, choices along the way. This impacted all of our well-being and it’s just the past couple of years that things seem to be returning to a healthy normal.

We have good raw milk and lovely golden eggs most of the time. The gardens are beginning to supply us with vegetables regularly. I have been fermenting, soaking, sprouting, and souring most of our grains and legumes. We make and eat ferments regularly. The chicken flock is growing towards giving us more and more of that golden broth.

All of these were practices I had – and foods I sourced out – six years ago when it was just us and two little boys. It just happens to be that now we (and often our neighbors) are growing these foods. And somehow saying that out loud kind of helps me make sense of it all.

Another habit that takes just a few minutes but has been a real game-changer is making sauces and dressings regularly again. Honestly, much of the time I just splash some ACV, olive oil, and salt on the greens and call it a day. But then we’ve still got loads of homegrown garlic that we are trying to eat daily and, of course, I am always trying to get more milk kefir into our bellies.

And then Stewart bought me this handy-dandy immersion blender that I can run on our solar panels when the sun is shining. I’ve been blending up all sorts of nourishing stuff, one of them being a super simple mayonnaise that is really indiscernible from the Hellmann’s of my childhood but with a way better ingredient list. Inspired by that, I’ve been whipping up this Better Kefir Ranch which is sort of a hybrid Kefir-Mayo dressing and we have been drizzling it over everything from salads to slaws; salmon burgers to beans; baked potatoes to carrot sticks.


And while it feels really good in the belly, it also just makes everything taste fresh and delicious.

A Better Kefir Ranch

Makes 1 Quart


  • 2 cups cultured milk kefir
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups avocado or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill or parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


Combine all ingredients in a quart jar and carefully blend until completely smooth and creamy using an immersion blender. Alternatively, grate the garlic into the jar with the other ingredients, place an airtight lid on the jar, and shake until all ingredients are combined.

Use as a salad dressing, dip, or sauce.

For many more good-for-you milk kefir and yogurt-based sauces, dressings, spreads, and desserts; see the Dairy Chapter in Traditionally Fermented Foods.


We headed to the garden this morning, my little helpers and I. The animals had been milked and Daddy and Elijah were working at a neighbor’s house for the morning so it was my four youngest buddies and I. The okra, once again, needed picking and all of us were ready to head outside.


The pumpkins are nearly done, at least the main patch. A second patch was planted a few weeks late and they are still ripening. We now have a root cellar with pumpkins sitting in its depths. I can hardly believe it.



Do you remember when I decided to plant seed balls? I kind of figured most of that seed was old and anything that came up would just be a bonus and maybe cover the ground a bit in the meanwhile. I hadn’t been out to the “field” portion of the chicken field in at least a week because, well, okra.

Leafy greens are something I am always trying to get into our daily diet and they are costly so we are forever trying (and often failing) to grow more and more. Much to my delight I found a good deal of large, harvestable mustard and turnip greens along with enough sweet potato greens for several weeks of salad. We have had very little rain and zero irrigation since I planted those and what a gift they truly are!


As an aside, this little lady likes her sunhats. And she generally skips out on the picking beans thing we came to the garden for and instead quietly tiptoes her way through the chicken field in her ongoing pursuit of sneaking up on the illusive grasshoppers.


And Mister Man here likes to play the kind of hide-and-seek that gets Mama’s heart racing. Let’s just say that I am thankful for a garden with a gate… that locks him in because he excels at hiding.

okrabucket okraseptember

While the okra factor is getting almost comical at this point, I really am very grateful for every little bit that we harvest. It is all a gift but I am guessing you are tired of hearing about okra so we’ll just move along…


… to delivering a wheelbarrow of weeds to the cows and goats.

And then I came in to water our fall starts since the ones we threw in the ground didn’t make it. You just never really know when those seeds go in the ground what might come of them but we trust the Lord knows exactly what we need and surely we are not owed any of it. So every leaf or pod or pumpkin or egg or quart of milk that comes to our table is truly a gift.

So sometimes the seeds just don’t grow, and sometimes you get a patchy field of unexpected greens… and okra! Did I mention I added okra to my seed ball mix? Oh yes I did. The squash and pumpkin and tomato seeds that we added never did sprout but the okra, well it is some kind of irony that it looks absolutely fantastic.

Good soil, gratitude, and a sense of humor are probably equally important when gardening. And, apparently, so is a good pickled okra recipe.